Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War Page: 170
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saying, "Here they come! Here they come! Look at 'em. Look at all of 'em!" I
couldn't see shit, I just couldn't wake up. My eyes wouldn't open. Then it broke
loose. Everyone began firing at once. The area was engulfed in flames. All I
could see were flashes. I fired at muzzle blasts. Two or three Chinese crawled
toward our position. I fired at them. One of them raised up and threw a grenade; I
couldn't see it, but I recognized the gesture. It exploded on the lip of the hole,
and the concussion blast caught me in the face. I raised up instinctively and
caught a couple of slugs in the shoulder. I fell back heavily and was now really
disoriented. Blood from wounds on my scalp and forehead flowed over my eyes,
nose, and mouth. The noise was tremendous. You had to shout to be heard. Joe
looked at me, then yelled, "Corpsman!" I knew where I was, but not how badly I'd
been hit. I knew I wasn't blind. I moved my right arm, but it was stiff and numb. I
barely heard Joe's yell, so I knew no one else could. I really didn't expect any
help to get through that hell. Joe leaned down and shouted that I should try to get
over the ridge. When I looked in that direction I saw enemy fire sweeping it like a
broom. I concentrated my entire effort now on getting back into the fight. I located
my rifle by the edge of the hole. When I tried to fire, I found it had jammed. Joe
kept yelling, "Look at them! Look! They're all over! Help, throw grenades!" I pulled
the pins with my right hand and threw with my left. I managed to throw them far
enough so we weren't splattered by our own shrapnel.
I heard the splat that a bullet makes when it hits flesh. Vittori sort of
slumped. I was really frightened, because his fire had been so effective and kept
the gooks off us. He straightened up in a kneeling position and rubbed his chest.
I could see it was wet. He said, "Load my empty magazines. Don't load 'em
backwards like Pete did." The two machine guns on our left fired steady streams
of bullets. Joe got his BAR back into the fight. The scene looked as if it were lit by
a barn fire. I saw men running and firing. I alternately loaded magazines and
threw grenades. The machine gun farthest away took a grenade, and the gun
tumbled on its side. Its red-hot barrel ignited some leaves and grass. Then the
gun pit next to us took a couple of grenades. Both guys fell over. One of the
guys, Blankenship-l recognized him because he was very stout-got up and
began firing the gun again. He leaned over, his face nearly touching the red-hot
barrel. He was hit again and fell on the barrel. His hair caught fire.5
Conaway was no stranger to combat. He knew well the typical tactics of the
NKPA and what a night-time defensive battle usually amounted to. But this fight was
different. It was among the most fierce the Marines had seen in all of the war:
Normally, the enemy ran out of ammo after twenty minutes, and the
fighting would stop until they were resupplied. Not so, this night. The longer it
went, the worse it got. I had a tough time breathing-just too much smoke; the
smell of cordite made me cough. The gooks tried to organize themselves, but
fortunately they could not hear each other. The noise was deafening.
52 Oral account of PFC Lyle Conanway, Fox Company, 2/1, in: Knox, Uncertain Victory, 304-305.
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Montandon, Joshua W. Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War, thesis, August 2007; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc3938/m1/185/?rotate=90: accessed March 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .